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Former NY Times Critic Says James Toback Made Death Threats After Bad Review

Janet Maslin says she filed a police report over the late-night phone calls

Former New York Times film critic Janet Maslin says James Toback threatened to kill her after she wrote a bad review of his 1978 directorial debut, “Fingers.”

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Maslin said she received calls from a man, who she believed was Toback, who disguised his voice in the middle of the night, telling her, “I’m going to f—– kill you.”

“He disguised his voice,” Maslin said. “It was a very menacing tone, and you know, I was scared. But at that point I had a listed phone number. He was the guy who made me unlisted.”

The film critic believes Toback called her at least 10 times following her negative review of his late ’70s-era crime drama, starring Harvey Keitel and Tisa Farrow. She let other reporters listen in on the daytime calls, and the threats prompted the Times to contact authorities. Maslin said it was the only time she has filed a police report.

A spokesperson for the New York Police Department has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

“The calls came in a badly disguised voice and said some version of, ‘I’m going to f—– kill you.’ I don’t remember them any better than that,” Maslin said. “They came to both the Times office in the daytime and my apartment in the middle of the night.”

When the report was being filed, she learned that fellow critic John Simon also received threats after he criticized the film. When police played back Simon’s answering machine, Maslin recognized the voice as “the same voice saying the same stuff.”

According to The Daily Beast, Toback was never charged and called Maslin after the police report was filed, identifying himself and asking her to the Harvard Club to bury the hatchet.

Maslin accepted the invitation, and, according to her, Toback was pleasant, ordered oysters and champagne and said he would never make death threats, allegedly telling Maslin that “if he wanted to kill her… he would have done so in the middle of the street.”

On Tuesday, the Beverly Hills police department said they were launching an investigation into Toback and Harvey Weinstein following complaints from multiple people. Toback was the subject of an Oct. 22 Los Angeles Times report in which more than 30 women stepped forward to accuse the director and screenwriter of sexual harassment.

Of the 38 women who spoke with the Times’ Glenn Whipp, 31 went on the record with their accusations of misconduct over the last several decades. Many of the stories were similar, with the women saying Toback lured them up to a room and then used explicit sexual language while describing a role before either dry-humping them or masturbating in front of them.

Toback told the Times that he denied all the allegations, saying that he never met any of the women accusing him, or that if he did, their encounter “was for five minutes and have no recollection.”

A representative for Toback has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment. Last week, the screenwriter said to Rolling Stone “the idea that I would offer a part to anyone for any other reason than that he or she was gonna be the best of anyone I could find is so disgusting to me. And anyone who says it is a lying c——– or c— or both. Can I be any clearer than that?”

A spokesperson for the Times has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.